The Garden: The Body Knows

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.*

Some thirty-five years ago I was well into  my second year of college, taking an academic overload of courses. I was not sleeping at night even when I went to bed. I was up and in class before 8:00 every morning.  There were days when I would suddenly mentally crash and not be able to make sense of much. Those moments terrified me. I thought I was going crazy, but of course, since I thought I was losing my mind, I couldn’t tell anyone.  They might think I was crazy!

Rather than reach out for help to anyone, I remained in that loop of overwork, under-care, fear and some days, utter despair.  Though I didn’t have the language at the time, I was generally depressed and I was experiencing bouts of extreme anxiety (and yes, you can actually have both at once).

One day, after several days of non-stop academic demands, I hit the wall again.  I knew the hopeless and helpless feelings that would immediately begin to descend on me like a dark curtain.  That day, my body completely took over.  I dropped everything and ran.  Literally.  I ran out of my dorm, out beyond the campus quad into a field.  I dropped to the ground and lay there for the longest time.  A tree.  The sky.  The ground, and I.

When I finally got up to go back to my dorm, I was hungry.   I was calm.  I could think again.  While it was a long time before I got any real insight into what was going on with me, a change began in me that day.  It was a long process.  I began to notice how my body was giving me cues about what I as a human being needed and already knew about myself–if I would listen. Until this day, I have come to know and trust that being outside, on the Earth, touching the Earth has deep, healing and restorative powers that She shares with me every time I spend that time with Her.

If we listen to our bodies, they will communicate what our souls already know and need for our wholeness.  In my experience, that always includes some new relationship to The Garden, the Earth our Mother.

Bob Patrick

*Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese,” in Dreamwork

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